Between Reality and Imagination
To evaluate a musical output like Christian’s, in the light of what has been said so far, means entering into an experience of life and into a sensitivity which feels music not only as a means of expression but also as a way of life, of being, of shaping one’s own existence.
There is a necessity behind the lyrics – of which we shall try to give some explanation in this introduction – and their melodies. This does not mean that we are faced with a “perfection”, but rather with something very human, for better or worse, which does not involve a departure from the biography of its author. By “biography”, we should understand not only the real facts of his life, but also those of his imagination, fantasy and desire. Thus, for example, a girl from his school whom he did not know (and with whom, incidentally he was never to meet up) became the object of a passionate and idealised love-song. In this way Christian “came to terms” with a revealed and vibrant sentimentality (When she comes to see me…) but one that was transfigured and idealised at the same time. Views and situations revealed are sometimes the product of real experiences (and at times hard experiences, like those linked to emotional solitude), but at other times they are fantasies, or the product of a joy or melancholy which only lives in internal images.
His Inner World
Reading the lyrics of Christian’s songs we realise that he constructs a kind of territory, a geography directed and delimited by dimensions that are self-contradictory: there is a “high” ground and a “low” ground, which are translated into a dynamic tension; in this on the low ground, one either “follows the path” of a search, or “takes a leap” into the dark, while on the other hand on the high ground one “flies” or gazes into the distance, contemplating the sun (if the images are those of light) or the stars (if there is a touch of nocturnal romanticism), Christian’s poetry is never descriptive; it doesn’t keep the horizon and perspective in a firm grip. Everything moves: downwards or upwards.
Everything lives by tensions, and there is no such thing as an inert object. This dynamic, which is the “history” of Christian’s songs, their temporal dimension, is provided by two basic sentiments: we could call them two “motive forces”: dream and struggle. The dream is the true reality, or rather the real meaning of things, the real substance. It is the dimension of love, for example, of the pleasurable vision which accompanies images of light, very clear and terse. Struggle, on the other hand, is the dimension of challenge, of whatever stands in the way of the dream, light and love. The struggle is above all challenge to distance, to the feeling of abandonment, to re-sentment. This is the summing-up of the “geography and history” of Christian’s songs: the high and the low, the dream and the struggle.
Up to the Light
Visions of the sea, the sky and the fields… there is a profound need for “purity” for idealism, for truth and thoughts “which take flight” (Close your eyes). This is the vertical dimension which gives effect to a single desire: “I want to fly” (The morning, the light) and “I’m flying” (Stefania), where flyingmeans a way of living romantically “free and happy”. There is an ideal of purity in this desire, as he writes in the first version of That’s all: “While someone is pure/This world will have a future”. It is interesting to note that in Ain’t a loserChristian identifies flight with music, or indeed with his realised musical vocation: “Towards the heaven I’ve finally jumped/ Tell me I’m not a loser/’Cause now my past is not worth a dump/And I know that my way is the music”.
Lover and music are united in the same metaphor of flight. One song is actually called Fly: “Let a new horizon fly in my mind/Let the past stay behind me/so I can break the chains which bind me”. Christian shows the need for hope, for a “place where I feel strong/ where nothing can go wrong”. In All my world he writes “So I pray you stay and be my northern star/Lead me, guide me with your everlasting light, light”. The Pole Star is not just to contemplate but to follow, in a rising arc towards “new horizons”. The future appears “so bright” (Summer of 87) and the path can be followed by “chasing rainbows” (When she came to see me..).
“That photo is Christian himself for me, his creativity, his freedom, and the beauty of everything that was around him…”
– His friend Gianfilippo Cameli
In Christian’s inspiration there is also a “twilight” dimension: melancholy, meditative, seeking to touch the truest chords of reality and of sentiment. This generates a kind of desert island, somewhat solitary, from which to look out at reality and relations. Christian solaces himself with the sourness, the “acidity” of reality, as in Lemon Girl; “hard to bear” (Il prezzo), and “… all I’ve left is pain” (Lemon Girl, second version).
It’s as if the sunny dimension, with its upward gaze was sustained by the perception of a liberation from what is dark and low. In fact flying means rising up from below. The fear is present: “The fashions overwhelm me all around/… Now I fear they’ll come to knock me down/A stir… (Ain’t a loser), but we mustn’t be afraid of falling: “Everything is darkness/Oh but don’t you be afraid/So let your thoughts go/Let ‘em go ahead” (Close your eyes).
The will to rise again, in contact with “below”, lends substance to a kind of “flight from the world”, of abandonment of the world: “Yes, I leave the world/Make sure I’m carrying nothing at all/ I know what I do is fair/’cause my eyes begin to see/And my heart begins to bleed” (That’s all).
Between “above “and” below” there is not stasis but dynamism and tension. The motive causes of this tension are the dream and the struggle.
In Constance there is talk of dreaming (“Sometimes I dream I find you…”) and dreaming is also the theme of Still I’ll Dream. Here the image of the danger of a descent is strong, but despite this, Christian still writes: “I’ll succeed in dreaming again because you and I were looking for the things that are true/Beyond the clouds, yes beyond the hills, beyond the skies”. The dream is different from illusions (“And I ain’t got time for illusions” – Ain’t a loser).
It’s something that has a reference to reality (“Hold my hand in my dreams” – Michaela) and which is transfigured or yearned for (“Dream to be/What you think you can’t be/Let yourself go/Let your mind fly” – Close your eyes). Above all, it is a territory, if not of reality, then certainly of truth. The dream is the place in which one is most true, in which the basic tensions of a life are revealed and manifested, at least in the interior depths. This is the motive for many of Christian’s exhortations to dream.
Struggling and Searching
The dream is a very human dimension of life, but one which is transfigured (and so “luminous”) to a level of symbol, desire, tension, of “the above”. The world of the “below”, on the other hand, is the world of the horizontal path, the search, the challenge and the struggle. In the 1997 piece (Searching), we read “A restoring faith/I continue to seek/and when the sun sets/I continue to seek/but I haven’t yet found/my road”. Seven years before this song was composed, in 1990, Christian had written Walking and a-walking: “… please let me choose my way/Walking till I find the way”. And in 1992 “There’s a spirit that’s crying/To break free from the chain/And a light keeps on glowing for you through the wind and the rain” (On the wings of the bluebirds). The path is not marked by a vague optimistic spiritualism. In Christian’s words one can see the effort and the tension of the search and the conquest of a life according to his own personal dream. The climb is an ascent and it is steep. There are no flying carpets or escalators: “I’ve fought for my life” (Povero ragazzo), writes Christian, revealing what he described as the “memories of my struggle” (All my world). Life is not a bed of roses: it is marked by deep tensions, capable of challenging the very essence of human beings, touching them in their deepest and most living inner chords. It is a “spiritual” tension, as we have already seen in On the wings of the bluebirds.
Let Me Run Away
The last images that Christian left us in a sort of unconscious testament are concentrated in the song Let me run away. Probably they were written for a rather commercial melody, and without too much thought. But here, consciously or not, Christian expressed him self in words and images which were always basic for him. The initial image is that of the morning, and then that of “above”. However, this morning is grey, invaded from “below”, by “spleen”, which is solitude, by a dusty wind, by poisonous snakes, “epidemic disease”, in terms which remind one of Baudelaire. Hopes “fall like rain”. From this descent, however, a challenge is addressed to himself: react, struggle, challenge: “But I’ll break free/Yes, I’ll break free/I wanna get to a place where I can be all I wanna be”. A flash of wings is seen against the grey background of solitude. “I just wanna fly from this life that I hate, leave it all and say goodbye”, and again “Let me run away/where I can be myself/where I can find my way”. “I wanna get to a place where I can be all I wanna be” – the place of dreams, the ideal, experience transfigured and luminous.
The artistic career of Christian Cappelluti closes with this hymn which embraces the four dimensions of his poetic inspiration: the “above” and the “below”, the dream and the struggle. The truest tension, final and defining, is in a place where “the chains are broken”, and in which he can be himself, finding his own way.
La carriera artistica di Christian Cappelluti si chiude con questo inno che compendia le quattro dimensioni della sua poetica: l’alto e il basso, il sogno e la lotta. La tensione più vera, ultima e definitiva è verso un luogo dove si “spezzano le catene” e nel quale egli possa essere se stesso, trovando la propria strada.